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Friends call imam slaying a hate crime; NYC police say no motive

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NEW YORK — The daylight slaying of a mosque leader and his associate set off fear and anguish Sunday among Bangladeshi Muslims in a New York City neighborhood, with some saying the killings appear to be an anti-Muslim hate crime. But police said there is no evidence so far to support that.

Police hunted for the gunman who killed Imam Maulama Akonjee, 55, and Thara Uddin, 64, near the Al-Furqan Jame Masjid mosque in Queens as they left afternoon prayers Saturday in their traditional religious attire. Both men were shot in the head.

''This was a hate crime. One hundred percent, there's no doubt about it,'' said Monir Chowdhury, who worshiped daily with the two men.

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He said he had moved to the community because of its large Bangladeshi immigrant population, but in recent months has been harassed by people shouting anti-Muslim epithets. In one incident, a man called him ''Osama'' as he walked to the mosque with his 3-year-old son. With the killer still on the loose, Chowdhury decided it would be best to drive to prayer services.

''A lot of neighbors said, 'Hey, don't take your kid with you,''' he said. ''People, they just hate us.''

More than 100 people attended a rally Saturday night in support of the community and in mourning for the shooting victims.

Associated Press